Outgoing Missouri coach Gary Pinkel faced many obstacles in 2015. Credit: USA TODAY Sports ImagesIt’s hard to overstate how tumultuous the 2015 season was for Missouri, the two-time defending SEC East Division champions. It’s not so hard to think the Tigers are unlikely to get a third ring in 2016.More than one tire came off in Columbia this year. The campus was roiled by unrest and a hunger strike, while the football team reeled from a suspended quarterback, a threatened team boycott and a sick coach. The miracle perhaps is that Missouri (5-7, 1-7 SEC) won any games at all.To have any chance of winning more, Missouri will have to become a complete team rather than half of one. The Tigers must keep intact an outstanding defense (the big reason the school chose defensive coordinator Barry Odom to replace Gary Pinkel, the winningest coach in Mizzou history) while somehow finding some offense.The gap between offense and defense was staggering. Week after week Missouri trotted out an offense that could hardly score, finishing 119th in the FBS by gaining a measly 115.4 yards rushing (113th) and 165.5 passing (108th). Such a limp attack makes even more remarkable a defense that spent too much time on the field yet somehow ranked ninth in the FBS, giving up just 132.8 yards on the ground and an even more impressive 169.3 through the air (7th).For reasons never fully explained, Pinkel suspended returning starting QB Maty Mauk and eventually dismissed him. In exchange, Pinkel handed the keys to Drew Lock, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound true freshman who played like he’d learned to drive an automatic and found himself behind the wheel of a stick shift.Most troubling for Mizzou was Lock’s inability to show improvement: Outside a fine outing against BYU in an emotion-laden game in Kansas City, Lock finished the season on a miserable note. Against Mississippi State, he completed 11 of 26 attempts with two interceptions, followed that by going 13 of 30 with a pick against Tennessee and concluded with a 9-of-27 outing and another pick against Arkansas.Lock gets his top rusher and receivers back in 2016 but Mizzou could use an upgrade there, too. RB Ish Witter, a bitty sophomore by SEC standards at 5-10, 190 pounds, carried the ball 126 times for 518 yards but found the end zone only once. Witter has speed and elusiveness, but his presence and production trailed off after an Oct. 3 win over South Carolina in which he had a season-high 98 yards on 17 carries, and Odom has to be scouring the recruiting trail for a bigger, stronger back.Missouri’s top receivers – J’Mon Moore and Nate Brown – are both sophomores. Moore, at 6-3, 190 pounds, led the Tigers with 29 receptions for 350 yards and three touchdowns, while Brown added 27 catches for 326 yards and four touchdowns. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but a 12.1 yard average and seven touchdowns with this offense is surprisingly good and thus Missouri fans have to be hoping for a more explosive presence on the edges in 2016.Remarkably, given how accomplished the unit was, there were only three senior starters on defense. Unfortunately, one was LB Kentrell Brothers, a first-team All-SEC team selection by the coaches this week. Players of Brothers’ caliber aren’t easily replaced. But the entire defensive line, including standout end Charles Harris, a second team All-SEC coaches’ choice, returns.Missouri cornerback Aarion Penton will be one of the SEC’s top defenders in 2016 unless he goes to the NFL. Credit: USA TODAY Sports ImagesIn the secondary, should junior CB Aarion Penton return, the Tigers will start with likely professional talent on one side. Penton, who led Missouri in interceptions as a sophomore, got only one in 2015, but he is the shut-down guy.Keeping a recruiting class intact after a coaching change is always dicey, and it’s not clear if Odom will be able to keep all of Pinkel’s recruits in the fold. For the moment, 24/7 Sports does not have Missouri on its list of the Top 50 2016 recruiting classes.OL Royce Newman is reportedly looking at options, as is MacKenzie Nworah, a Texas linebacker prospect. On the other hand, Trey Baldwin, an outstanding prospect at outside linebacker in Houston, remains a solid Missouri verbal commit and has tweeted his support.Odom will certainly have his work cut out for him. The offensive line, for instance, wasn’t very good in 2015 and that was with four senior starters. If the Tigers new unit doesn’t gel nicely and quickly, and if Missouri can’t find a more potent running attack, then Drew Lock’s learning curve will only grow steeper and Tigers faithful will find their team mired in the SEC cellar rather than playing in Atlanta.
Advertisement AdvertisementRohit Sharma, the newly selected opener for India in Tests, had a fantastic first day at the office in the first Test against South Africa. The ODI opener went on to score a superb fifty on Day 1 of the Visakhapatnam Test. And with his 11th fifty in Test cricket, he equalled Indian legend Rahul Dravid’s record for the most number of consecutive fifty-plus scores in Tests at home.While Dravid had hit 6 successive fifty-plus scores between 1997 and 1998, Rohit Sharma has scored 6 successive hundreds at home between 2016 and 2019. The Mumbai Indians captain was selected ahead of KL Rahul for the no.1 spot as his usual middle-order position was already booked by Hanuma Vihari who had a wonderful outing in West Indies earlier this year.Last week in the practice match between Board President’s XI and South Africa at Vizianagaram, Sharma couldn’t open his account and was dismissed for a duck, raising some questions among the critics. However, all of them were silenced today through his sublime century against the likes of the Protea seamers Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander.He waited patiently during the crucial first hour and started firing all guns out once South Africa introduced spinners. Him and Mayank Agarwal raced to fifty within the first session and built a solid 100 plus partnership for the opening wicket.Even though rain stopped the first days play unexpectedly, India are in firm control with 202 on the scoreboard. Rohit Sharma is batting on 115 and his partner Agarwal is unbeaten at 84.